When I first started diving, I was terrified of encountering a blood thirsty Shark, thinking it might be my first and last meeting with a cold-blooded creature. My mind was filled with images and stories characterized by the media. Sharks have constantly been portrayed negatively and the worst of all of them, an American thriller film, Jaws, who has given the great white Sharks, tiger Sharks and bull Sharks an awful reputation as a man eating machine. I know now how the media has distorted the images of these truly stunning individuals. The first time I saw a Shark was like no other experience imaginable and nothing compared to the movies.
Any diver who has spent any time in the water with Sharks will know that they will disappear at the sight of a human. To this day, I still get chills at the thought of seeing a Shark just because they are so rare. My stomach turns in knots and my heart beats out of my chest like it’s going to metastasize into something different. There is nothing more amazing than to see the creature you’ve been taught your whole life to fear, swim by you. You feel so small and powerless, so stunned by this creature you forget to breathe. While many would chose not to be anywhere near Sharks, I feel entirely spellbound among them.
Jaws, Sharknado (yes, I said Shark Tornado) and other nonsensical movies has unfortunately been a contributing factor which has brought so many of these Shark species to the brink of extinction. This myth of Sharks being people eaters is really starting to get old. You are more likely to be killed by a toaster than to be eaten by a Shark. More than 800 people are killed each year by toasters, so take that into consideration the next time you decide to heat up some bread. Just think how many Sharks we are currently killing every hour, (11,417 to be more specific) and only 11 humans get attacked by Sharks every year.
Sharks have been swimming in the oceans for over 400 million years. We are not fish; we are merely guests in their captivating world. A diver, no matter what level, should have genuine appreciation and respect for the aquatic universe. There are no more excuses. The ocean is dying and it all begins and ends with Sharks.
PHOTO COURTESY – ROD BATEMAN